HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, September 30, 2010

City Livin'

I moved into a house on Monday and, for the most part, couldn't be happier so far. The place has 5 levels, 4 bedrooms, and 4 bathrooms, plus a few porches. One of the bathrooms even has a Western-style shower! Here are a few pictures to show, once again, that Vietnam isn't some undeveloped backwater. And don't think we're living in some extravagant Expat neighborhood: all of our neighbors are Vietnamese, and the rent is exactly the same as I paid for a much smaller place in Pittsburgh. These are: my bedroom, the living room, part of the kitchen, and some of the plants in the house. There is an open skylight on the roof that allows us to have that indoor garden.

The house doesn't have every amenity we're used to in the U.S., for example, there is no oven, and the fridge is about half the size of what you would use back home. However, there is a washing machine (that you don't have to pay to use! U.S. landlords take note!), a dishwasher, and a stove-top with two burners. This allowed us to make our first home-cooked meal last night, a delicious bowl of vermicelli with spring rolls, sauteed peppers, eggplant, onion, tomato, fried tofu, greens and hot sauce.

We're also in a great location, within walking distance to three other districts, grocery stores, restaurants, and all kinds of other shopping. One nice thing about living in such a real neighborhood is the fact that there are tons of basic restaurants that tourists would never find. We went to one the other night that was simply open to the street and had bare white walls and floors. We were the only Westerners there and, judging by the stares, probably the first ones to eat there in a while. No one spoke English, but we simply pointed to dishes on other tables and ended up with an amazing meal for about $1.50.

A lot of the housing here is actually located in alleys off of main streets, and our place is no different. This means that we are off of a busy street and it's accompanying traffic, but can reach the street in less than a minute. This is nice, although it doesn't mean everything is quite. Vietnamese are early to bed and very early to rise. At midnight everything is dead silent, but by 6 or 7 a.m. the morning vendors are already moving down the alley pushing their cart or riding their bike and calling out what they are selling. The alley is big enough for motorbikes to fit through, so you hear those from time to time. This morning I was greeted by the lovely sound of a jackhammer a little before 8, but I guess this is the price you pay to live in a growing city.

Overall, though, living in Vietnam is great. I'm really happy with the house, and I expect to have a great year here.

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